On December 8, 2022, the Council of the European Union voted unanimously to accept Croatia’s bid for admission to the Schengen Area. The decision means that as of January 1, 2023, all internal land and sea border controls between Croatia and neighboring Schengen states will be lifted. Checks at internal air borders will be lifted starting March 26, 2023. Croatia will also begin issuing Schengen visas beginning January 1, 2023, and will make full use of the Schengen Information System. Croatia’s addition to the Schengen Area is one of a series of recent developments in the country’s increasing integration with the European and international communities. These developments include Croatia’s adoption of the euro, addition to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and grant of free movement in Switzerland.

Background: The Schengen Area

The Schengen Area is a free movement zone currently comprised of twenty-six European countries that have agreed to function as a single jurisdiction for purposes of passport and border controls. The area covers more than 400 million EU citizens. With Croatia’s addition to the Schengen Area, the free movement zone will include all EU member states except Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania. Non-EU member states – namely Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein – are also part of the Schengen Area. Bulgaria and Romania had applied for admission to the Schengen Area at the same time as Croatia, but did not receive the required unanimous support from the council.

Croatia’s addition to the Schengen Area comes as the EU moves toward digitalizing Schengen visas, the short-stay visas issued by Schengen member states that allow non-Schengen nationals to move about the Schengen Area without being subject to additional border controls.

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